The Let's Play Archive

Conception Plus: Maidens of the Twelve Stars

by Psycho Knight

Part 2: Conception Plus' Delivery Problems

Special Update I: Conception Plus’ Delivery Problems

Before we keep going with this LP, I wanted to discuss some of the weirdness with Conception Plus-

NO! NOT THAT WEIRDNESS! We’re not going anywhere near the anime adaption just yet and lord help us all when we inevitably do.

No, this weirdness concerns the transition from 2012 Japanese-only PSP game to 2019 PS4 remaster exported to the English speaking world.

As stated in the intro, Conception Plus is an updated rerelease of Conception for the PSP, which released back in 2012. It only came out in Japan, yet its sequel (Conception II) did get an English localization courtesy of Atlus.

Why Spike Chunsoft would choose this title as the one to dig out of the closet and give an HD update to is anyone’s guess, but they did. Why their newly established North American branch would choose this game to localize is a bit of an easier question to answer:

It’s because they’ve apparently embarked on a mission to speed-run Spike Chunsoft’s entire library. The NA branch opened in December of 2017 and after the Christmas party was finished they buckled down hard. They’ve been translating games like mad since early 2018.

Anyhow, the stars somehow aligned perfectly in Conception’s favour and it was brought back for a second chance at life. Now that it’s here, we can take a look at some of the oddities that popped up along its journey.

~Opening tomfoolery~

The first one, which you should have noticed immediately if you watched the opening cutscene linked in the intro, is this affront to the English language:

It’s a little difficult to fully make out because the text starts to fade just as the last few words are appearing and the background light obscures it in places, but here is what it says: “You are about to witness a Tails, The Legend of Messiah, that will be handled down generation after generation.”

That’s from the original PSP game’s opening. If English is not your first language or you somehow don’t see anything wrong with that, then let me explain. If I included a line like that in a paper to any of my English professors, they would be genuinely concerned that I fell and struck my head at some point between classes.

-You don’t witness a “Tails”, unless you’re playing a Sonic the Hedgehog game. Additionally “Tails” is not a story, that would be a “tale”, which also wouldn’t be capitalized because it’s in the middle of the fucking sentence and not a proper noun.

-“a Tails” is a conflict of singular and plural.

-The Legend of Messiah sounds like a sweet JRPG that’s being way too on-the-nose with its plot. But if that's what they wanted to go with then it should have been the "Legend of the Messiah."

-You don’t “handle” a legend or tale down through generations, you “hand” it down, as in to pass it on.

You get the point. It’s a complete mess is what I’m saying. Also pretty nonsensical. Japan, I know you guys like to use English to make things seem exotic or foreign. We English speakers do the same thing when we mangle Latin to try and appear sophisticated. I get it. But for the love of god, is it too much to ask that you run this shit by a native English speaker before sending it to the presses?

Apparently it is, because this is a screenshot from the Conception Plus intro. They went through the effort of doing a remaster and yet didn’t bother to make this incredibly simple fix.

And don’t start with that “How do you know it’s easy? Have you ever made a game?” horseshit. I know it’s easy because Spike’s freshly opened North American branch DID fix it:

”You are about to witness a tale, the legend of God’s Gift, that has been handed down for generations.” That’s much better. It sounds natural and it’s also not as overly pretentious as that “Messiah” thing.

That’s a screenshot from the PS4/Steam English localization. Now, I know what else you might be thinking: “Okay, so the NA branch had the time to be able to change that small thing. Maybe the Japanese office didn’t. They had to actually develop the game after all, so maybe they had to make do with just reusing the old PSP intro.”

Maybe so! Except not! I originally gave them a pass on this because I thought the same thing (this was before I knew the English version fixed it). It’s a small studio and an incredibly niche game, so they likely just pulled out the raw footage of the PSP opening animation and slapped a new title card on it to save some time and money.

Then I noticed something:

The images on the left are from the PSP opening animation. The ones on the right are from the PS4/Steam version. They decided to reuse the same intro, but they also felt the need to go back and add in these weird aura effects to the sword and monster (as well as the glowing red eyes on the monster). Why? I’m not going to pretend that this took a lot of time or money to do, but there’s no question that it did take some amount. So why bother with it? I can’t imagine many people would argue that it greatly improves the opening in general.

It’s also a little weird because Conception Plus introduces a 13th Star Maiden created just for this remaster, yet there is absolutely no sign of her being added to the intro. She doesn’t even get to be cheaply photoshopped in to that shot of Shangri-La, Narc, and Mana. Doesn’t it seem slightly more important to get her featured somewhere in the opening animation rather than making sure the protagonist’s sword is glowing? They clearly did work to touch up the intro, but in ways that don’t especially matter.

~Lillith’s not the only character with an alter ego~

Anyway, enough of that. We’ve got more to touch on. Such as Mahiru’s personality change.

I mentioned this near the beginning of Update I as well as in the intro. In the transition to HD, the developers decided to tweak the personality of one of the characters. Unfortunately, instead of tweaking the personality of one character that really needed it (Mana, I’m talking about Mana), they turned their sights on Mahiru.

In the PSP version of Conception, Mahiru is more stuck-up and colder towards the protagonist. Her personality is heavier on the Tsundere side with a healthy dose of snark. She’s the school idol and is more concerned with that status than she is in the Plus version. However, despite the distance she tries to put between her and Itsuki, it's clear that she still sees him as her childhood friend (she does confide in him about being pregnant after all). Getting pulled in to Granvania causes her to grow a bit as a character and she gets kinder as the game goes on (according to what I’ve read about this whole thing online).

Compare the PSP screenshot to this one from the remaster, though. Mahiru in Conception Plus is a lot kinder and a bit more on the meek side. Upon Itsuki asking if she is kidding with the “I’m pregnant” thing, she responds like this in the Plus version:

Why would I joke about that? Itsuki, I’m sure you want nothing to do with this. You probably just want to go home, eat chips, and play video games.

Mahiru says this in kind of a hurt or disappointed tone in Plus. The kind of tone that says “I really need you to support me right now and not treat this like it’s nothing.” Her response in Conception PSP is along the lines of:

Yes, this is just a joke. Is that what you want to hear? It is, isn’t? You just want to get this stupid conversation over with so you can go home. I’m sure you can’t wait to stuff your face with chips and play video games.

Her tone in this response is angrier. She also quickly leverages their status as childhood friends in a sympathetic play to try and make Itsuki feel bad for responding like that.

Now, I’ve seen things like this happen before in the process of localization. Mistranslating and misunderstanding of the Japanese script can lead to characters sometimes having different personalities compared to their original incarnations. This isn’t that. This personality change was made by the Japanese developers. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of many instances where the makers of the game changed a character’s personality for a rerelease, especially not a main character. If anyone can think of a time where this has happened, then let me know.

I’m confused as to why they would make this change. Don’t get me wrong, I know what the idea behind it is. They wanted her to be more submissive and more appealing to players, so they made her nicer and more caring. The problem with that is that this is partially a dating-sim visual novel. PSP Mahiru is a Tsundere, which is an incredibly popular type of character (not to me of course, but to each their own I guess).

And if there are players that don’t like that kind of character? There are ELEVEN (twelve in Plus) other girls in this freaking game to chase after. So why change just Mahiru? No matter what personality you give her, you’re going to get overlap with others. We haven’t seen a lot of Ruka yet, but I get the feeling that she’ll be a Tsundere as well. So even if the devs changed Mahiru to avoid overlap with Ruka, they likely just made Mahiru closer to one of the other heroines. What’s the point?

Unfortunately I can’t really find out. I couldn’t find any concrete information on why the developers changed her. It could have been because of focus testing, maybe it was because they found that players were being turned off from the game during the intro due to Mahiru’s attitude, maybe it was to better market the anime adaption, who knows. Either way, I find it very strange.

~General strangeness~

On top of all of that, there are a few other weird things I’ve noticed with this game. Some things were present in the original PSP version and just don’t seem to have been corrected, others seemed to happen in transition.

For one, Lilllith’s hair color seems to shift depending on what scene she appears in. In the opening as well as the small cutscene that plays as the Maidens are being introduced, her hair appears as more of a green. Maybe like a mint, or at most a turquoise. The Maiden introduction shot has her hair as R=167, G=248, B=207.

But now let’s shift that to her gameplay appearances:

The second image is the one that the cutscene you saw screenshotted above transitions in to. The breakdown on this shot is R=187, G=255, B=244. Green stayed almost the same, but the Red and Blue were bumped by 20 and 40 respectively. It’s a minor thing, but it’s made really noticeable when we move from cutscenes/illustrations to gameplay. You can also see that Farun got hit with that a bit as well. Mahiru's hair color is also noticeably lighter in her PSP model, but that seems to have been corrected in her Plus model.

Speaking of cutscenes, despite this being a remaster, Conception Plus actually removed at least one of the cutscenes that was present in the PSP version.

The image you see above is from a cutscene that, in the PSP version, played immediately after the “running up the stairs to the roof” scene from the opening seconds of the game. This scene doesn’t exist in the remaster. The Steam version only has 4 unique files in the movies folder. There’s the Spike Chunsoft logo movie, the opening, the “sucked into the sky” scene from the beginning, and the maiden introduction scene (which is less of a full cutscene and more of an animated illustration, if that makes sense). Except for the maiden intro scene, the movies come with three different names: _jp for Japanese, _en for English, and _zhtw. User Admiral H. Curtiss informs me that zhtw usually stands for traditional Chinese. There is a Chinese version of the game on the Singapore Playstation Store, but the language option doesn't seem to be included in the English release despite the presence of the cutscenes.

I don’t know if there are any other cutscenes missing besides this one, but as for why this specific scene was cut, I believe it’s because it contradicts Mahiru’s personality change. The scene from the screenshot has Mahiru telling off Itsuki for being “12 seconds late”, which was part of her original PSP personality. I’m guessing that the developers of the remaster simply couldn’t find a way to write this scene to fit Mahiru’s rejigged personality since her body language is clearly meant to convey annoyance.

In addition to removing cutscenes, Conception Plus also removed the “Touch Communication” feature. This was present in the original PSP version, but Spike Chunsoft removed it for the Plus remaster. The Touch feature allowed you to weirdly touch the Star Maidens during conversations. Those of you who read the Conception II LP will remember this feature only cropping up maybe twice during the entire playthrough (once in Narika's route and once in Feene's).

Those of you who didn’t read that LP may instead remember this from the Fire Emblem: Fates internet shitstorm a few years ago. There was a big outcry from weirdos on the internet that the English release of Fates wouldn’t let you pet and prod your Fire Emblem waifus and husbandos. Cries of “Censorship!” rang forth on gaming sites everywhere.

I don’t really care personally. It was barely used and kind of janky in Conception II. I only mention it to document the change in attitude towards that kind of content, even from Japanese developers. This is a little bit important for what’s to come in Update II, because we’ll be seeing something that wasn’t removed from the game that is arguably way more risqué than being able to poke people while they’re talking. It also led to its own internet tantrum being thrown.

Finally, to top things off, let's talk about the mess that the PC release was in general. I don't have screenshots for this crap, but here is a shortlist of the kind of stuff that I've been going through:

-The game originally released without the Launcher. If you don't play PC stuff much, a Launcher is typically used to adjust graphics options and keybinding for games that don't just include those things in the in-game menus. So for about a week after this game came out, people couldn't adjust the resolution or V-Sync or change their controls. Spike Chunsoft originally made a post on the Steam boards saying that "The launcher should be there, guys. Go check again." When people pointed out that "no, the launcher most definitely is not there", SC apparently realized that the launcher files were in the Steam Developers page, but hadn't actually been released to the general public.

-Even after the launcher got released, I was unable to make use of it due to an apparent Javascript error that said a module was missing from a Temp file on my SSD (which is not where my games are installed). Despite staring at the supposedly missing dll files, the error persisted and I wasn't able to find a way to fix it. I sent an email to the address listed on Spike Chunsoft's Steam Technical Support page and a short time later the email came back undelivered. The email SC lists on the Support Page apparently doesn't exist, or has been shut down. So instead, I had to find a different tech support email address from their Twitter account.

-The reply I got from their support team said to update drivers, check the registry, run a malware scan, and run a virus scan. That is the digital equivalent to saying "Did you try turning it off and on again?"

-After trying to reinstall the game to fix the above problem, the first attempt resulted in the game getting stuck at 100% download but not being actually installed. The second attempt installed, but the sound wouldn't work. The third attempt didn't fix the original error, but everything else was back to normal so I just slowly backed away and decided not to touch anything for fear of everything going to an irreversible hell.

-In addition to these general issues, someone on the Steam boards has reported that this game supposedly suffers from a memory leak that can cause it to use up gigs of memory. I haven't had this problem myself (yet), but until it gets patched I will have to keep my task manager open in order to monitor my PC's performance.

-A patch was released about a week after release that swapped out the existing movie files for "High Quality" versions. The difference in quality is very noticeable. As an example, the file size of the originally installed movie files was about 11mb for the English version of the opening movie. The High Quality version of that same file clocks in at 37mb. I have no idea where or how they got "Low Quality" movie files to begin with. It's possible that they accidentally compressed them during the port, but that still doesn't make a lot of sense. Best guess that I have, though.

Future PK Edit:

On top of the issues above, here are two more that I encountered as the LP went on.

-The game would occasionally lock up for 30-40 seconds at a time when some kind of loading was required. Usually it happened when trying to open the menu or change rooms in the Labyrinths. After 30-40 seconds, the game would finally recover from it's brain fart and load up whatever it was that triggered the lockup. When it did, and assuming I was inside a dungeon at the time, the frame rate would proceed to get wonky. It would fluctuate between 10-30 fps at random while running around. Most of the time a restart would be needed, but sometimes just exiting to the world map would fix it.

You want to know what's weirder? The frame rate dips are only visible in-game, as in live game play. What I mean is that my OBS recording of the footage would not show any frame rate wonkiness. If you play it back, it looks totally normal, but the live game play would show slowdown.

And no, OBS was not the cause of this problem. This issue happened regardless of what setup I had going. Full screen with OBS running, full screen without OBS running, windowed with OBS, windowed without OBS, it didn't matter.

-From the start of the game right until the end, the game only had about a 40% chance of starting with audio. Want to see how I could immediately tell if this was the case?

Seeing the opening stuff pass by at light speed is how I would know if the game was starting properly or not. If it flicked by like what you see above, then there wasn't going to be any audio. There were times when I needed to relaunch the game 4 times before the audio would finally start.